With a Mighty Hand by Amy Ehrlich (Daniel Nevins, Illustrator)

Long time readers will know I am a sucker for well illustrated and designed picture books. Throw in the fact that it is a Torah for young readers and I am hooked.  Which is why I immediately grabbed With a Mighty Hand: The Story in the Torah when I saw it at the library.

With A Mighty HandAmy Ehrlich retains the beauty, drama, and mystery of the Torah in this unique adaptation, gorgeously illustrated with paintings by Daniel Nevins.

The Torah is the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, which Christians call the Old Testament. It tells the story of the beginning of the Jewish people and their relationship with God. From Adam and Eve to the first patriarch, Abraham, to Moses, who led his people to the promised land, the stories in the Torah have been studied and revered since it was first written down nearly 3,000 years ago. Now in this glorious volume, Amy Ehrlich crafts an authentic, lyrical adaptation that is presented as a continuous narrative, one that honors the complexities of the original text. Daniel Nevins’s richly hued paintings bring the ancient wonders of the Torah to resonant life, making this truly a gift to savor, share, and treasure.

As someone who has increasingly come to see a narrative approach to scripture as critical, this is a wonderful illustration of the power of stories.  As the blurb notes, “Ehrlich crafts an authentic, lyrical adaptation that is presented as a continuous narrative, one that honors the complexities of the original text.”  What a wonderful thing!

As other reviewers have noted, Ehrlich really captures the images, language and cadence of the bible.  The stories feel like the oral turned literary traditions they are and therefore retain their power.  Although she has shortened the books at made them approachable for younger readers, she did not change their nature or sugarcoat them to make them more palatable to modern readers.  They retain a sense of strangeness even as they are familiar to those who have grown up with scripture. There is a narrative drive even as there is mystery.  They are simple but yet profound as they trace the narrative arc of the history and God’s relationship with his chosen people.

The illustrations share this simple yet meaningful style. They accompany rather than distract the stories.

Lois Rubin Gross describes my reaction well:

The appearance of the book adds to its grandeur. From the illuminated script of the cover through the rich paintings throughout, the scrolled page detail, and the pictures (paint on wood which adds depth and style) you will be awed by the artwork.

This is a wonderful introduction to the Torah/Old Testament for readers of all ages and perspectives.  Poetic language and beautiful imagery combine to bring the stories to life.  The simplicity helps make them accessible and less intimidating without undermining the integrity of the history and meaning.  Highly recommended.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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